5 years in: RV there yet?

Still no.

We were originally thinking it would be a one-year thing. Maybe two? We certainly didn’t imagine it would be a two-RV thing. But we were quite happily wrong, and we’ve now got enough events planned for Year 5 that there’s no way we’re giving this up yet! we’re now almost 3/4 through a year in which almost every planned event has been cancelled, so we’ve had to punt. A lot. And we’re too skittish at the moment to put much of anything on the calendar for Year 6.

We are grateful that we’ve managed to see as many friends and family members as we have — in very small groups, and mostly outdoors — in 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic has caused an indefinite delay on our biggest plan for this year, which was to begin an annual vacation tradition with both sons and their girlfriends. Sigh. Maybe next year.

We did get bonus time with one set of ’em, and yes, it now seems ridiculous that I was worried when Austin/Travis County was at 90 confirmed cases. They have since surpassed 22,000.

So to celebrate our nomad-versary, I shall regale you with our Amusing Tally of Miscellaneous Statistics, updated for 2020

In four five years, we’ve used, purchased, worn through, or replaced for any number of reasons ranging from the mundane, to the catastrophic, to just not getting the right thing the first time around (or second, or third…):

Our three configurations, in chronological order
BFT1 + RV1 (2014-2017)
BFT2 + RV1 (2017-2018)
BFT2 + RV2 (2018-present)

We’ve also held memberships/accounts with:

  • 3 RV insurance companies
  • 3 cellular service providers
  • 2 RV owners’ clubs
  • 4 RV travel/social organizations
  • 2 mail forwarding services
About a year ago, we switched from a UPS Store mailbox we’d already owned in San Antonio,
to the Escapees RV Club’s Mail Forwarding Service.
And when we were in Livingston, TX, earlier this year, we were able to pick up our mail at the headquarters building, in person.

And in addition, we’ve experienced: 

1st new workamping job:
Co-managing one of Pumpkin Station’s farm locations in the San Diego area
2nd new workamping job:
Volunteering at the Escapees CARE Center in Livingston, TX
Our preferred types of workamping jobs offer visible results.
Here’s how & why we use these opportunities to supplement Tim’s retirement pension.

I’ll spare you a full reprint of our prior annual reviews, which included answers to the 13 Questions We Hear All The Time, but I’ll update the three two that need it.

How many states have you visited in the RV, I mean like, for more than just a rest stop?

By my count, 37 39: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

My criteria for counting a state as visited are a bit fluid, which I know will drive some people a little nuts. Did we stay overnight? Long enough to do the weekly laundry? Go on a hike or visit a national park? All of those are valid to me. Just driving through on the way to elsewhere, with a potty break at a gas station? Not so much — otherwise, we’d have counted Mississippi about 8 times by now, instead of zero.

And the RV has to have stayed inside the state border too, not just us. Otherwise, we’d have been able to add Hawaii and Rhode Island last year.

Map created at amcharts.com

What’s next? (entire section updated)

After another week here in Montana, where we are happy with lower population density and temperatures than we were enduring in Texas, we’re going to spend some time in Wyoming and Colorado as we make our way back to Texas in September.

It wasn’t our original plan to go back this fall (am I the only one detecting a theme here?) but we’ve been able to schedule some non-critical yet important medical and dental appointments that were impossible to nail down when we were there in June/July.

So it’ll be San Antonio from mid-September until Halloween or so, and the course of the pandemic will determine where — or if — we go after that.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and/or Twitter for between-blogging updates.

So that’s it for the end of Year 5.
The time for smiling at you from behind our masks will eventually end…
… and then we can smile at you like this, looking back, having made it through.
(Photo: D. Goldstein)

Other updates: We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format for the where-we’ve-beens and what-we’ve-dones.

None of the above: a sojourner meanders through the 2020 Census

We were recently introduced at a gathering as “sojourners,” and that pleased my inner word nerd because it’s a term that isn’t used so very often, and it carries with it a sense of romanticism and history.

Also? I’m pretty sure nobody’s ever called us that before.

And then I got to wondering about wandering. What makes a sojourner different from any other type of person on the move?

Based on my travels from one online dictionary to another (see what I did there?), the meaning hinges more on the destination than on the journey — which seems odd, because the “journ” part is right there inside the word. 

A sojourn is defined as a brief or temporary stay, thus  sojourners are people who spend a short time in one place. 

That’s not an inaccurate way to describe us. Between stints as sojourners, we are travelers — or nomads, wanderers, vagabonds, itinerants, and/or peripatetics. Maybe even pilgrims or hobos, depending on our purpose, and how long it’s been since we last showered and changed clothes. 

No matter what you call us, or what we call ourselves, I have a feeling that completing our 2020 Census form might be a little tricky.

I’ve taken a look at the Census Bureau’s proposed questions, and those involving residence do include “mobile home” as an option, but it’s clear from the list of responses that they mean the kind of mobile home that stays in one place. (“Hello, we’re from the government. Have you experienced an oxymoron today?”)

Anyway, I’ve lifted a few images from the document linked above, and I think you’ll see pretty quickly that in some cases, we’re just gonna have to choose whichever answer is least untrue.

Hmmm.
Our home is owned with a loan, but we also pay rent in the form of campground and RV park fees — unless we’re boondocking or work camping, and then we don’t pay rent at all. And what about the rent we pay for our storage unit?
Shit. Next?

Not sure how to answer this one either.
Do I measure the size of our current RV site?
The acreage of the entire park?

I guess for 18a we’re gonna have to go with an average, as our monthly rent varies widely. Or do I put the amount of our loan payment there?
18b is an easy no, and 19 makes me want to ask, “Wait. How much is it worth? Or how much would we actually get for it? Because we have a proven track record of being shitty at selling things.”

Yes, but it wasn’t parked here, and the address I dig up and give you for wherever we were on this date last year is not going to match our official mailing address.
Oy, this.

Finally some easy ones.
Yes to all!

“Similar debt.”
Ummm, maybe?
It’s more like an auto loan, I guess. Monthly payments and all that.
Scrolling on…

A ha!
A box with our name on it! Best I can tell, this is the only census response that allows for a dwelling that is not actually a building. Even though the question asks you to describe the building. Help!

One.
Let me introduce you to our sole vehicle, a 1-ton dually we call the BFT.
OMG, we’re going to trigger all the federal alarms.

For starters, it’s not a building, you guys. See above.
And the year it was built differs from its actual model year.
Do we even answer this question?
Sheeeesussssssss.

So there you have the points I’m pondering.
Even within this post I’ve wandered — from finding the definition of a single word, to trying to define our home, so that we can check the right box, while living a life that most people would describe as outside the box.

And yes, we will get our Census in the mail, at our official-on-all-the-things address, just like the rest of you. So they will find us. (See Question 9 in this post.)

But depending on where we are, how much fun we’re having, and when we actually call to have our mail forwarded that month, there may be a delay…

Top 20 True Tales from the Laundromat

I don’t care what anybody says. Laundromats are a gold mine of story-telling fodder.

But before I lead you down into that mine of mine, I’ll start with a little background.

One of many “You Do You” facets of RV life is that some folks go for the in-coach washer and dryer, and others don’t.

Here’s our “in-coach” dryer.
Drawback: doesn’t work in the rain

Although we’ve got dedicated hookups for them in our bedroom closet, we opted against installing our own machines, and here’s why:

We didn’t want to sacrifice the storage space, weight allowance, or power & water usage, when we can do our laundry elsewhere — in a facility that someone else has to maintain and repair.

I’ve managed to wash and dry 2-3 loads, once a week, every week since we’ve been full-timing, and it’s really not a hardship. Sometimes, a nearby friend or relative generously offers up their laundry room for a welcome freebie, but I have to admit I’ve become spoiled by the convenience of getting it all done at a laundromat in less than 2 hours, thanks to having access to multiple washers and dryers instead of just one of each.

As for the money, well, I’m not that good at math, but I can guesstimate that at an average of about $6.50/week, it costs us about $338.00/year to do our laundry.

A new set of RV machines costs about $1200.00 (source: quick glance at a few options on a single major national RV retailer’s web site).

So after nearly 3.5 years of full-time RV living, we’ve now spent about as much on coin-op as we would have on our own washer and dryer, but…

I cannot deny the added value of all these stories.

Twenty True Tales from the Laundromat? Priceless.

1. Middle-aged guy walked all the way across the laundromat to tell me, “That looks so nice. You folded it all perfect!”
I think he was fishing for an offer of assistance.
Well.
Some women get hit on for their looks. Not me. I reel in the boys who want someone who can fold their fitted sheets.
(January 2016, Port Hadlock WA)

2. One of our sons is traveling with us, and this is my first time doing RV park laundry for three people instead of two.
It’s also the first time I’ve done laundry for one of my children in nearly a year.
I could have done without the additional aggravation. Hello, spellcheck?
(June 2016, Warren AFB WY)

3. This is a nice compromise.
Usually RV park laundry rooms are all like DON’T YOU DARE WASH YOUR PET BEDDING IN HERE, but this one dedicated a washer and dryer just for that.
Kinda wish I’d noticed it before I washed all our clothes in it, but I suppose there are worse things than coming away with a little hair of someone else’s dog.
(August 2016, Nellis AFB NV)

4. Washing our stinkies, under close supervision, here at the local combination mailbox rental, thrift shop, grocery store, laundromat, bait & tackle, beer & wine barn.
Wow.
(January 2017, Ehrenberg AZ)

5. This may not look like a perfect day to you, but to me it’s a reminder that we’ve spent the past month surrounded by dear friends — the kind who say, “Of course you can bring your laundry over. Any time. Soap’s in the cabinet. Here’s a house key.”
So. Much. Love.
(March 2017, Norfolk VA)

6. Good ol’ Wrinkle Bill…
(April 2017, Shelbyville KY)

7. I want to meet the person who came up with this name for the laundromat at the marina.
Because that is good.
That is very, very good.
(July 2017, Saint Ignace MI)

8. Tim (picking me up at the laundromat, hoping everything’s done): So, did I arrive at just the right time?
Me: That depends. Did you bring me a tetanus shot? Actually, I think I might have cholera.
Yeah, this is a skeevy one.
Check out the professionally — and inaccurately — labeled dryers.
(August 2017, Ashland City TN)

9. October 2017, Manchester TN

10. I’m not sure what begging comforters are, but I think I may have picked a rubber floor mate during one of our shifts at Amazon last week.
(November 2017, Murfreesboro TN)

11. Guess we had a stowaway.
Been a long time since I’ve pulled a toddler sock out of a washing machine.
(January 2018, San Antonio TX)

12. March 2018, Kerrville TX

13. I got the size right, the style right, the quantity right, the fabric blend right, and even the price right.
I neglected to peek inside the multipack and check the two colors that were hiding behind the gray ones.
Which is how Tim now has almost as many pairs of pink panties in the wash as I do.
Which probably also explains why they were such a bargain.
(July 2018, somewhere in SD)

14. You know you’re staying in a rural area when…
(August 2018, Enumclaw WA)

15. I have found my people.
(August 2018, Chehalis WA)

16. So if the laundry room phone rings, do I have to answer in 1993?
(October 2018, Lackland AFB TX)

17. Eeeeeee! Laundry room visitor.
My fluff & fold just got a whole lot fluffier!
(October 2018, Lackland AFB TX)

18. As I was leaning over, tossing stuff into the dryer, I heard the laundry room door open behind me, followed by a male voice saying, “Hey. You were out running this morning!”
He was not wrong, but uhhh, having my backside recognized by a stranger was a little disconcerting.
I turned, readying my “The hell?” look, which I had to camouflage quickly, because I noticed just in time that the gentleman was pointing to the hanging rack over my dryer. “You were wearing those pants!” he said.
Oh.
Oh yeah.
Heh.
I guess those blue leggings do indeed etch themselves on the retina.
(October 2018, Lackland AFB TX)

19. Texas, y’all.
(November 2018, Palestine TX)

20. November 2018, Palestine TX

I’ll keep gathering these precious nuggets with the goal of posting a new collection in another 3.5 years — when we’ll have spent enough at laundromats to have bought a second washer & dryer!


Author’s note: Nearly all of these posts came from my personal Facebook account. I don’t think it’s plagiarism if I copy & paste my own work, but I thought I’d better explain myself to those of you who are thinking, “Hmmmm. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this before…”

 

The 49-year-old whippersnapper, or: how I survived the over-55 RV park by acting my age. Sort of.

Not so very long ago, we stayed in one of those RV parks. 

You know the type. 

The age-restricted kind with so many rules that you quit reading after about the 5th one, and decide that just being a good person for the duration of your stay will probably cover most of them anyway?

When we checked in at this park, we received a packet that contained a list of 25 rules on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, single spaced, small font, both sides. Rule 15, dealing with the laundry room, also had subsections a-f.

I know.

And there were a few additional rules on the park map.

And even more rules printed on signs scattered about the property. 

And don’t get me started on the club house. Let’s just say that not everybody should be allowed access to a label maker, printer, or even paper and a Sharpie. Especially people of a certain age, with a lot of time on their hands. 

(If you’re humming, “Do this. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?” you’re not alone.)

So being possessed of a deliciously sideways sense of humor, I decided to have a little bit of fun during our stay in the Land of Many Rules. 

OK, a lot of fun.

To be clear, I was not on a mission to break the rules. They’re there for a reason. I get it.

I just thought I could give those fine folks cause to come up with a few more they mmmaybe hadn’t thought of. 

Yet. 

Remarkably.

Attempt 1: Go topless
Nothing says I have to wear a shirt over my sports bra.

Attempt 2: Wear a boob joke
And furthermore, nothing says that the shirt I do wear over my sports bra can’t be a brow-raiser.
(Relax. I’m a breast cancer survivor, and my right “pear,” although still original, is no longer perfect. I bought this shirt as a reminder to keep my sense of humor about it.)

Attempt 3: Purple hair don’t care
Like most of the women here, I’ve got gray hair, despite my being a decade or two younger. There was no rule against hair dye, so why not go bold for a few washes?

Attempt 4: Get yourself up to no good
Okay, so most of the men I encountered in the park were old enough to be my dad, so I really couldn’t be a cougar there.
But Tim, at 51, could totally have been cougar bait!
Mrowrrrr

Attempt 5: Dare them to repeat it
It would have fit on there a 5th time, and I’m pretty sure instructions need to be repeated five times before they require obedience. Law of the teenager. Right?

Attempt 6: Hang out
We were allowed to use the community clothesline. They didn’t specify what we were allowed to use it for.

Attempt 7: Seek balance
“No walking on the site dividers” was not a rule.
I checked.
And then I did it.

Attempt 8: Grow something green
The park featured a community herb garden — and no sign specifying what could or could not be planted there.
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and… Wait. Is that what I think it is?

Attempt 9: Maximize efficiency
Who among us has never stripped off a dirty item of clothing and tossed it directly into the washing machine? It’s a time saver. And there was no rule posted against it in the park laundry room.

Attempt 10: Run with scissors!

Attempt 11: Make items multi-functional
It’s a pole. Poles are for dancing. Didn’t everybody know that?

Final attempt: Take matters into your own hands
If all else fails, amend the Standing Rules yourself.
(For those with eyes that need a little help, click on the photo to enlarge it.)


Disclosure 1: Neither one of us is over 55. We were able to get a guest spot for a limited time.

Disclosure 2: Park name and location have been withheld to protect the… well… a park that’s really quite nice, and I know that it’s because of a lot of those rules. I’m pretty sure they can take a little ribbing, but just in case they can’t, I’ll keep their identity under wraps. We’d like to be able to stay there again.

Disclosure 3: Photos originally appeared on the author’s personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, and I give thanks to my partners in crime. They know who they are.

Ah, what the hell.
Bylaws are always so boring.
Might as well amend those too.

An epic fail, advice from a stoner, and how we ended up with a new truck

A funny thing happened in March, on our way from San Antonio, TX, to Elkhart, IN, for a service appointment to take care of some welding issues on The Toad: the BFT is the one that failed us.

Irony: the dependably cooperative BFT dies on the way to having the notoriously lemony RV repaired.
WHO THOUGHT IT WOULD BE THE TRUCK???

Not what we were expecting.

Our incredibly reliable, tough-as-nails, much adored 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500 dually sputtered and quickly died while we were driving on I-35 just south of Dallas — a mere 225 miles into our 1300-mile trip.

We are very thankful that despite the scariness of the incident, the travel gods were indeed watching over us.

We were on flat ground instead of a hill.

There were no vehicles riding too closely behind us.

We were not in a construction zone.

We had a wide shoulder to pull onto.

And I was smart enough to start veering toward that shoulder at the same time I was saying, “That didn’t sound right.”

Why did that turn out to be a smart move? Because we had mere seconds before the truck shut down. All power: gone. On an interstate.

The tow truck driver took Tim and the Silverado to a service shop, leaving me on the roadside with the RV until they returned.
Why?
Because Tim can talk truck to the garage gurus, and I shouldn’t ever do that.
We both know I’d say, “You know what? Just burn it. We’ll walk.”

From my personal Facebook account that day: So I sat all alone in the grass next to I-35 for more than 2 hours, waiting for the tow truck to come back for the RV, and this is the only person who stopped to make sure I was OK: stoner on a fucking bicycle.
Said his name is Mondo.
He was riding to Austin for his birthday.
I don’t know where or when he started (and I rather suspect he didn’t either), but he had about 145 miles to go.
Mondo offered me use of his cell phone to make an emergency call, in the event I didn’t have one.
Clearly he’d never met me.
And then, in the way only the perpetually stoned can properly pull off, he told me I should just relax, and not stress out about it.
He then literally rode off into the sunset.

To make a very long story a lot shorter, the problem turned out to be what is rather evocatively known as “grenading” of the fuel pump. Upon its death, it sent shards of metal through the entire fuel system, leaving us dead in the proverbial water.

As Tim described it “The critical part seemed to be the Bosch-built CP4.2 HPFP, the exact same pump used in the Ford F-series Light Duty diesel trucks. If you google ‘F350 CP4 failure,’ you’ll find plenty of discussion on the issue. Same if you google ‘Duramax LML CP4 failure.’”

Tim, who is not an industry expert by any means, but merely a consumer who’s always trying hard to get smarter, further surmised, “A major culprit appears to be the quality of diesel fuel in the U.S. (i.e., the mandated ultra-low sulfur blend plus other things), combined with what might be less than acceptable engineering by Ford and GM. Reportedly, Bosch has been saying for some time that the lubricity of the fuel needs to be higher for these pumps to last, and U.S. diesel fuel doesn’t meet these standards.”

Within ten minutes of meeting our new BFT, Tim was underneath it, checking all the things.

What that meant for us was a $10,000 fuel system replacement (GM paid for part of it) that left us stranded for two weeks outside a really small Texas town. Middle of Nowhere was still a good 10 miles away. We were there so long we painted our RV’s interior!

And then, after the truck repair was complete, and we were finally sitting in Elkhart waiting for the work to be finished on The Toad, we realized that we needed to make a big decision: test our luck by keeping the BFT and its fresh new fuel system with the exact same type of pump that had gone spectacularly belly up, or upgrade to a truck that wouldn’t have that issue.

To make the second part of the story shorter as well, we knew we couldn’t live with the uncertainty of driving a truck that might croak again, any more than we could change the U.S. diesel fuel composition standards that were probably part of the cause.

The Silverado was our only vehicle, and it pulls the Bighorn, which is our only home. We couldn’t stomach the idea of going through a second catastrophic failure, or having it happen under far more hazardous circumstances than the first one.

We opted to upgrade.

Y’all say hello to our 2017 Dodge RAM 3500 dually, which we picked up at the end of May, just shy of 3 months after the Great Fuel Pump Grenading Incident of 2017.

For those who are wondering why we didn’t go with the 2017 Chevy Silverado, which does not have that same iffy fuel pump as the 2011-2016 diesel models, there were three factors that put the RAM on top.

  1. Shorter turning radius for easier maneuvering
  2. Larger payload and axle weight ratings for higher towing capacity
  3. More competitive pricing for better value

We look forward to thousands and thousands of miles together.

My birth announcement.
I figured our sons should know.

12 miles on the odometer, and it definitely does not make my butt look big.
What a great purchase!
Also, we had a terrific experience working with Jeff Taylor, Commercial/Fleet Manager, at Glenn’s Freedom Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Lexington, KY. Holler if you’d like a personal referral!


Author’s note: A version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.